How to Write a Book Review: Useful Research Guide

How to Write a Book Review

This article will dwell on the basic principles of how to write a book review.

A review is a critical analysis that informs about a new event, contains an assessment and a brief analysis of a work of fiction, science, art, or journalism. Writing a review is an exciting, creative process, because of which a reader turns into an author and creates his write-up in which he expresses his thoughts, experiences, as well as personal understanding and awareness of what he read.

A review could also be said to be an assessment of a work that answers the most important question of the reader, whether the person who wrote the review liked or disliked the book. If you are a first-time writer or want to make a career in reviewing books, then follow the guide in this article for effective reviews.

The subject of the review is not just facts, but various information phenomena – performances, books, games, brochures, academic papers, films, television programs.

Since a review is an analytical genre, its main task is not just to inform about an event or object, but to present this event, analysis, assessment of what is happening, argumentation, personal conclusions, and reasoning. Yet, the review should not be considered as a means for solving some social problems. This is done by various studies, literary-critical articles, or reviews.

Simply put, the author of the review studies one or two works and gives them a critical assessment.

The volume of a review

  1. Mini-review:  This is a small review (1-1.5 pages of printed text), in which the reviewer briefly, concisely and without unnecessary digressions gives a reasoned assessment of the work. This type of review is in high demand.
  2. Grand review: This is a large-volume review, in which the topic is thoroughly revealed, a deep analysis is presented, and a comprehensive assessment of the work is given. Grand reviews are usually written by expert critics.

Tips on the structural format

Oftentimes, only two things are expected from a review, a story about what is written in the book, that is what it is about and your personal opinion about it. So, when you start writing a review, it should consist of the format below.

  • A short overview of the content of the book, a list of the main characters and an indication of the main topic.
  • Your personal opinion about this book, state if you liked it, have negative emotions, or if it made you indifferent with regret about the time spent on it.
  • Detailed analysis, which may include the following: the persuasiveness of the characters of both the main and secondary characters; how much the work corresponds to a given genre; the degree of intrigue; uniqueness of the plot; the complexity of the composition, and everything you find interesting and worthy of a separate mention.
  • A reasonable and significant moment in personal reflections and be generous enough to let other book lovers also find out about it, by explaining this in your review in a unique and personal way.

6 Guidelines for writing a book review

1. Find the right balance

Read, listen to, or view the piece at least once. When you first read the material, you will have a general impression of what you saw or heard. Then it is necessary to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the work under study. After that, read or review the material again, compare your feelings with the first impression, write down your new thoughts if your opinion has changed.

Also, a good review should be about the content of the work and should be more detailed in it than in the classical annotation. Yet it is profitable to understand that a review should be kept brief and to the point.  People who are not familiar with the piece are unlikely to be grateful for the spoilers.

2. Constantly ask yourself the “Why” questions?

Why did I get so hooked on the piece? Why does my eye shake from the actions of the hero? Why did I realize that other books by this author will be read and will decorate my shelf? Why am I obliged to tell everyone that you cannot waste time on this book? Why don’t I feel sorry for not having read this book to the end? Why did tears flow from my eyes from empathy, then from laughter? Why is this book comparable to the books of classical authors? Why should it be read at this age?  All these questions and more will guide you through the composition of a very good review.

Furthermore, explain what criteria, standards, characteristics you followed when analyzing and evaluating the work. Understanding of the genre, art form and theme. Knowing ​​the work being assessed is one of the fundamental requirements for creating a truly good review.

3. Do not reject interpretations

If a book is strong and good, it will inevitably have several interpretations.  After all, a brilliant author writes so that everyone would find and see something of their own in his work. Describe your analysis of the book, what you found, how you understood and interpreted what you read. It’s no secret that the book is not a monologue of the writer, but a dialogue between the author and the reader, so your interpretation will stir up the new reader’s interest in the book. Include this point in the outline of your review.

4. Know your target audience

You must understand who you are writing for. The style of writing the review will depend on the audience. A more detailed presentation of your arguments will be needed for the public, while for experts your review should be as succinct, well-thought-out and to the point as possible.

All books are different and the messages in them are also different. Make sure to clarify who the targets of the book are intended for, what age and at what period of life it will be interesting to read it. Help the reader avoid mistakes. Be sure to reveal in your review who will especially like the work.

5. Compare with other works

It is human nature to compare, so when reading a certain book, you discover it reminds you of another, be sure to write about it. Such a comparison will reveal more details about the genre of the work, attract fans of similar stories and add colour to your text. Note, compare constructively, not according to the classical scheme of which is better or worse, but point out the common and the different.

Importantly, provide the audience with detailed information about the piece, such as the publication date of the book, the author, indicate the publisher, and where you can read, or find the book.

6. Describe the quality and value of the work for yourself and others

What are its advantages and disadvantages? Who will benefit from reading or seeing? What is new, relevant, interesting in it? Prove to your reader why and how you came to this conclusion, support your assessment with evidence, facts, quotes, and comparisons.